Dufus: In Monstrous Attitude

Anti-folk poster boy Seth Faergolzia now sounds like any other grovelling love fiend.


In Monstrous Attitude

Label: ROIR
US Release Date: 2009-09-15
UK Release Date: 2009-05-04
Original Release Date: 2009-04-03

What has Seth Faergolzia in store for us today? For those unfamiliar with the music of this suitably hirsute and costumed eccentric whose band is really a multimedia collective with a revolving door membership, just do the following thought experiment: put Captain Beefheart, Jethro Tull, Yoko Ono, and Frank Zappa together in a dingy old dive and see what happens.

Just when every other band of our era dusted off the psychedelic and fey folk ends of '60s pop, here was Faergolzia, a self-admitted washed-up nut, playing dirty prankster. He took the spirit of the anti-war movement, enlarged its target to encompass the modern world as we know it, and subverted everything that pop music prescribes: from coherent song structure to the English language. (A typical song title of his is “maeken funna me”). No surprise then that Faergolzia has engendered two types of responses: Either he twists you into a knot of mirth reserved for the likes of Michael Moore, or he repels you like a fusty moth-eaten jumper. Yet something about this freak/genius of a man appeals enough to ensnarl the likes of Animal Collective and Kimya Dawson of the Moldy Peaches, and about a hundred others on the New York circuit to jump on his merry bandwagon.

In any case, Faergolzia got somewhat less weird between the paranoid prankster folk of Dufus’s first ROIR release, 1:3:1 (2003), and Ball of Design (2004), which imparted the artist’s surprising newfound transcendence and taste for acoustic punk.

For In Monstrous Attitude, Faergolzia invited Anders Griffen and Alex Coronado onto the stage with him. He also enlisted Kramer, founder of independent NY label Shimmy-Disc, as mix-master. As for the packaging, Faergolzia’s fondly remembered squiggly Crayola drawings are replaced by a 12-page foldout comic strip by fellow anti-folkist Jeffrey Lewis. Fittingly, it depicts one Faergolzia lookalike taking revenge on some paintball-toting school bullies by hijacking their band.

In Monstrous Attitude largely dispenses with the sonic riffraff of choirs and noise/circuit-bending of previous efforts. Instead, it’s almost entirely acoustic folk with twangy pop tones. Faergolzia’s voice, capably chameleonic as always, does most of the theatrical heavy lifting: going from spitfire sung-speech to a Howard Devoto snarl (both appearing on “Stuck in a Room”) to a Johnny Cash warble (“Don’t Let It Go”) to a frenzied wail (“Farting Without Fear”). The album also brims with non-sequiturs and dirty lyrics to keep In Monstrous Attitude suitably weird. Take “Farting Without Fear”, a sprawling screwball of a track with lyrics that you could die trying to decipher.

If Faergolzia was solipsistic on Ball of Design, he seems now to be telling us that this introspection hasn’t always provided him with a bulwark against domestic vagaries such as love and fatherhood. On “Stuck in a Room”, Faergolzia melts into a puddle of self-pity and paranoia after a breakup; but on “Don’t Let It Go”, he appears to goad his lover into orgasm after he’d already “left”. Faergolzia is even capable of tenderness, as on the rather maudlin “Anouk”.

In the end, however, it's hard to know what Faergolzia stands for. He was far more interesting as a washed-up polemicist who railed against the evils of shopping malls and passivism and, as a political statement, tested the bounds of freedom with his musical aesthetic. Now he sounds like any other grovelling love fiend, but with one distinction: a capacity to exhaust the earnest listener trying to make sense of his inscrutable lyrics. Why submit yourself to such a monstrous ordeal if the underlying message isn’t worth raising an eyebrow?





Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.


Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.


JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.


All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.


Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.


Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.


Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.


'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.


Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.


Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.